Monday, April 14, 2014

April Update

Dear Praying Friends,
Happy Khmer New Year!

You’ve been praying for the recent National KEC youth conference, we want to share with you some ministry updates…

Since we needed to get to the camp site and get things ready a head of time, our family left Poipet early on Tuesday morning of April 1 to Kampong Cham Province.  Altogether, we drove about 9 hours, going through Battambang Province to picking up 200+ mats and other supplies which were on the way there.  We were about an hour before reaching K. Cham, when we were confronted with a huge sand/ dust storm which lasted about 20 minutes! At one point, we had to stop at the side of the road because we could not see anything! Then a terrible rains storm followed us the whole way through!  About 5 or 6 trees felt on in front and behind us!  And though we had a big plastic sheet to cover the mats on the back of a truck, by the time we’d reached our destination, part of our suitcases and all the mats were drenched with rain waters!  “Oh well”, Jonathan said, “at least the conference does not start until the next day”.  And while we were still driving and trying to get through the storm, we received multiple phone calls from church people in Poipet—all saying the same thing, at that very moment, a big rain storm, in Poipet, was knocking down trees and houses!  At the same time, we began to wonder what God had in plan for the coming conference.  The theme for this year conference was based on Revelations 3:16, “So, because you are lukewarm- neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth”.

By late evening and upon arrival (April 1), we received more bad news:  Four members of the National youth committees could not make it to the conference due to family emergencies.  And the camp director (we’d rent a camp) made some last- minute changes that had some significant effects on the conference!!!  Having no other alternatives, we proceeded as planned.

In late afternoon on the next day, April 2, the first day of the conference, everyone arrived safely, and all seemed very excited to be at the conference at last!  The registration time went until late in the evening.  Although the number of those who actually registered and paid for the conference fees were only 528, more than 550 people showed up at every meal time! The committees had to do the head counts at each meal so that we would not be over charged by the catering people!
Throughout the entire conference, we’d encountered a number of problems.  We had no electric power from 10 pm to 5 am every night!  Since all the indoor- running waters were operated by electric power-- some people went to bed without any shower! With the average temperature of mid 90’s with humidity, there was no power to turn on the fans!  We received a few complain from young people, but the conference went on as planned. Despite of the facts mentioned, everyone seemed to accept and comply with the situations well.

About 11:30 am on the third and final day, while the joined service was going on, another rain storm hit the camp very hard!  The strong winds nearly knocked off the tents!  This was very unusual for April!  It should be the hottest and driest time of the year!  And yet, here we had two thunder and rain storms in one week! However, instead of complaining and grumping as we had expected, the youth leaders turned the whole event into fun time for everyone; it became a raining party!  The worship leaders led the group with a number of popular, fun songs. And many young people, feeling encouraged by their peer, went out to dance in the rains! It was so amazing and fun to watch!

Around 3 pm of that last day, we received yet another bad news!  Chamroeun, one of the worship leaders, received a shocking report that his house in Phnom Penh was burned to the ground!  The fire destroyed everything they owned, including their whole life saving!  Everyone was very upset!  That evening during the final worship time, the youth committees decided to give a special offering for Chamroeun and his family.  We realized that the giving probably would not be much, being that it was the last evening of the conference, and that the young people most likely had already spent their every last penny on snacks and souvenirs.  But in respond to the needs, the committees decided to take the collection anyway.  All the money was collected and immediately counted.  The currencies received including US dollars, Khmer Riels, and Thai Bahts—altogether it was $570.00!  That was about $1.00 from every person attended that conference!  This amount may not sound much to people living in the West.  But in Cambodia, bases on average income, this amount is about 5- 6 month salaries!  As one young man exclaimed, “Who says that the young people don’t have money?”

Staying with the conference theme, all pastors and seminar leaders spoke variety of toptics all related to “Hot or Cold? Lukewarm, No More!”  Every night the guest speaker, Rev. Nareth May, challenged the young people to make a decision to follow Christ.  The first two nights, there were about 10-20 people raised their hands up showing that they were willing to make that decision.  But on the third night, about a 100 people went up to the front stage to answer the altar call!

The afternoon rains brought cooler weather for that last night.  But who wants to sleep when you won’t be seeing some of your friends again, until next year?  That’s what most young people did!  Some stayed up all night chatting with their new found friends.  Some even encouraged one another to stay true to the commitment they’d made during the conference.  Early the next morning, April 5, young people loaded up onto their designated vehicles.  One by one a bus or a van exited out of the camp.  The remaining committees stayed behind to help clean up the camp.   By the time we left the camp site, it was almost noon time!  We went directly to Siem Reap province, taking a long two youth committee members, dropped them off at their places, checked into a hotel at 4 pm, and crashed!  Never a dull moment with the Lao family!

And did I mention that our boys, Justin and Jonathan, were with us the whole time, taking along their suitcases and other personal belonging, attending parts of the conference, waiting for us to take them back to Dalat School after a week off from their spring break?  They were such a good sport playing along with all that went on.  Jonathan even enjoyed playing in the rains with the other Khmer kids!
Last week (April 6-11), we were in Penang, Malaysia.  We came directly from Siem Reap to Penang.  Justin and Jonathan started school that Monday (April 7) while we stayed in the school guest house and rested...  Being located on the school campus, we were able to visit with the boys during the lunch hours, saw how they interacted with their peers and dorm siblings, met and chatted with their teachers, and joined with their dorm meetings.  The boys even slept, a few times, in the guest house with us!  We counted blessed to be able to celebrate the boys’ birthday parties, with their dorm family, two parties in one week!  Jonathan turned 12 on April 9th, and Justin’s early surprised birthday was celebrated that next night!  The Jackson Dorm has a very fantastic birthday tradition where dorm members take turn to give meaningful tributes to the birthday person!  We were so moved to hear all the wonderful and heartfelt tributes including words of blessing and encouragement that every person in that room was giving to our sons! We’re so thankful to God for such a great week!

For quite sometimes, Meing (Auntie) Pheap had consistently asked Soeuth to preach at a new church site, in Doung Mear Village, Battambang Province.  Meing  Pheap (founder of Bethlehem Church, in Battambang) has been excitedly sharing with us about a daughter church that she and the leaders from Bethlehem church had planted since December 2013!  Every time we go teach a leadership class in BTB, Meing Pheap would often repeats the same request.  But time did not permit, until now…  So, while in Penang, Soeuth was working on an Easter message as requested by Meing Pheap and some elders.

This Palm Sunday, April 13, we went to Doung Mear Church!  Upon arrival, however, we’d noticed that a place of worship, surrounded by dried rice fields and grass huts, was located under the shades of mango and coconut trees with 50+ colorful plastic chairs all lined up the adults, and 5 large blue plastic sheets, on ground, for children to sit. A number of respectful village men and women, along with the village families and their many children were already presented at the site!  Older children had lovingly and carefully decorated the service area with palm leaves, seasonal flowers, and balloons!  Everyone was excited about this special event!  Having arrived early, we had sometimes to meet and chat with people before the service began.  That was when Soeuth felt led to preach an evangelistic message instead!  During the service, many different age groups of children and youth took turns to perform their special songs. Everything was so beautiful!!!  The children truly sang and worshipped from their hearts! In the sermon, Soeuth challenged the audience to think about the origin of Earth and everything on it, including the origin of mankind.  He‘d asked, “Since everything on Earth seemed to have a beginning, then, who is the Maker of all things?”  Everyone seemed to pay close attention to every word spoken.  Even the very small kids sat still throughout the entire service!  Amazing!!!  We had never seen such good behaviors as in these kids! At the end of sermon and upon altar call, 10 ladies went to the front and asked to receive Jesus!  The church families celebrated this special occasion with very tasty green curry with rice noodle!

This week, April 14-16, is Khmer New Year!  As in every religious holiday season, this is a testing time for church people, especially for new believers.  Many people already left Poipet to visit their hometowns.  For those church people who are not traveling, they will come to our place on April 15 for a full day of games and fellowship.  The Living Water church will do the same on April 16.  Please pray for protection and safe traveling for all.  PRAY that believers would stand strong in their faith.
According to Mr. Bo Samoeun, the lead member of the Svey Sisophon prison ministry team, Mrs. Moum is due for release on May 13!  This is the most anticipating moment for Mrs. Moum and for all her friends and family!   Please PRAY that the authorities will keep their words.
Thank you for praying. Happy Easter!  Our God is alive!  Hallelujah!!!

Because He Lives,
Syna, Soeuth, Justin, and Jonathan